Edo de Waart is in Minneapolis this weekend to conduct two concerts by the locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. Both shows are sold out (but check the musicians’ website for news on standing room).
De Waart, who was music director from 1986 to 1995, did some interviews Friday morning. He said it was not a difficult decision for him to return and help the musicians. “My heart is still with this orchestra,” he said. “I was here for nine years so it was not brain surgery to show my support for the musicians.”
Former concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis is also in Minneapolis for the concerts. Fleezanis and De Waart were colleagues going back to their time in San Francisco.
"This is not just a situation in Minnesota; it is national and global," Fleezanis said of the financial and labor issues facing the orchestra. "I feel like we're on the brink of something big and the question is for the community: how do they assess the worth of this orchestra and what it means to the city?"
Fleezanis, who now teaches at Indiana University, said the state of orchestras is on the mind of every student with whom she works. She also said musicians need to do a better job in underscoring for the public, "the meat and potatoes of what we do."
Being a musical director in American orchestras, de Waart has been witness to some labor problems that are usually always quickly resolved. This one seems to be different, he said, and he had heard a year ago that there could be serious trouble.
“I’m not against anybody, but I’m for the orchestra,” he said. “I would hope these two concerts make the board rethink their point of view. I’ve never thought it was a good business to cut your product.
“It’s an ecological system. You can’t say we’re going to give 30 percent less water to this forest and it won’t make a difference. It’s hard for me to judge what is going on here.”
In Milwaukee, where musicians recently agreed to a deal with small cuts followed by small increases through 2015, players had trust in the board, he said.
“I have been pushing hard for the board not to cut back,” he said. “No one is rich in our orchestra.”
Minimums at Milwaukee, according to the International Conference of Symphony and Orchestra Musicians, will hit a top of $63,500 in 2015 (for a 40-week season).
De Waart said the proposal offered to the Minnesota musicians is demeaning.
“I’m not saying no givebacks of any sort would destroy the orchestra, but it’s such a one-way street,” he said.
Asked for solutions, de Waart invoked storied names and worried that a generational change is working against the system of great patrons.
“Where are the Ken Daytons?” he asked. “He was a man so totally motivated by the quality of the orchestra. And there were others.
“There is an obligation. Those who don’t want to pay 39 percent tax rates should give it to arts organizations, schools, hospitals. This is a serious generational problem. It is morally very wrong. That civic pride in what makes their town special isn’t there.”
De Waart also said the entire cost structure of orchestras needs to change -- from guest artists and conductors to soloists and administrative staff. In Milwaukee, he has given back part of his salary.
“It won’t help single handedly, but we have to take the cuts.”
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